I often hear sewists that don’t want to sew knits, because they don’t have a serger or because they say they’re not able to manage them….
You know what? You don’t have to be scared from knits, because, knowing the right tips, it’s easy to work with them and achieve professional results. Today I’m sharing with you some of my best ones, collected during years of
General tips and info
- Knit garments don’t need to fit exactly your measurements like when sewing woven, you need to add darts to get the right shape. Knit hugs you softly also if measurements aren’t perfect 😉
- Always pre-wash (so pre-shrink) knits, leave them dry flat (not hanging) and leave them rest flat for at least a day, when dried, to allow them keep their shape.
- Your pattern asks for spandex and you’ve found knit with Lycra content… and now? What’s the difference between Lycra and spandex? Well, Lycra is Spandex (made by DuPont), while spandex is the no-brand version!
- Never stretch knits while pinning!
- While pinning with regular pins, try to keep them inside seam allowances to avoid opening unwanted holes in your garment! Sometimes, you won’t notice damaged fabric until after washing it one (or more) time(s): better stay on safe side, when sewing a spandex knit you don’t know the behavior.
- Better use patternweights instead of pins (or use ballpoint needles, if you find them); you can use your cat’s canned food, or (washed) rocks, iron chunks (I live with a plumber LOL)…
- If with wovens you usually clip your notches, in knits better mark them outside the (usually) tiny seam allowances, cutting sort of triangles, with vertex corresponding to notch: you’ll be sure your knit won’t fall apart in correspondence of notches while you’ll be able to perfectly match marks (you can also snip shorter notches, but then you’ll need a magnifier to see them!)
- Some kind of jersey (t-shirt fabric), have edges that tend to curl, some times heavily: use some starchy spray and press to fix it! Will be easier to work with seam allowances 🙂
- A nice press on seams and hems (with a gentle touch of steam) will lay them nice and flat, getting rid of all that wonkyness! Only remember: do not slide your iron, or you’ll distort your garment!
- You can leave seams (and hems) as they are, unfinished: knits do not ravel!
- Always cut your pattern on fabrics laying them in order to have the stretchiest direction (usually crosswise, but it doesn’t really matter!) around the body, to hug it!
- Great help while sewing (but also when cutting, if really slippery) thin knits is using tissue paper, oven paper (or, if those are missing, also some toilet paper can do the job… this one is never missing!).Sandwich your fabric between paper’s layers (I use the one that comes in swimwear packages: I work in a swimming pool and this paper would end directly in paper recycling bin… so I reuse it before using it to light my fireplace – too much frugal, I know!)And sew! They’ll prevent stretching fabric too much, acting as stabilizer!
- Wondering how to know stretch percentage of your knit (how much your fabric stretches)? Check this Elegance and Elephant’s great photo tutorial!
- Staytape (like this one Dritz 791 1/2-Inch by 10-Yard Stay Tape– affiliate link) on seams that don’t need to stretch, like shoulders or side seams (you can also handmade it, using a strip of the same knit on its not-stretchy direction, saying it’s not a 4 ways stretch!): you can use a strip of organza, a selvedge, clear or regular elastic, scraps of interfacing, depending on the kind of knit you’re sewing on.
- A nice gadget to have (
still missingordered Wednesday, can’t wait the postman to deliver it!!) is the walking foot, that helps feeding the top layer of fabric under the needle, keeping layers together! Will write soon about it!
- Ballpoint needles! Always start an important project with a fresh one, to be sure it’s not damaged. You’ll find jersey needles and stretch needles: go for these last ones, when you have a spandex content, to be sure you’re not breaking anything: they have a rounded point and a specially designed eye and a deeper scarf to prevent skipped stitches allowing to form a longer thread loop to be nearly sure your hook’s sewing machine will catch it (as the manufacturer says!)
- I am not a big fan of twin needles but, if you find the right settings on your sewing machine, they allow you to achieve a Pro-result, faking a Coverlock stitch. You can check here Deby’s video about her tips on using a twin needle!
- One more tip when using twin needles on thin knits, is to stabilize your fabric fusing some lightweight or knit interfacing (or even only spray starch!), to add some stiff. You’ll find that sewing on a stabilized knit will be easier and you’ll have no more skipped stitches!
- Stay away from cotton! In this case, natural isn’t better: I’d suggest you choose a polyester thread, because of the slight amount of stretch it has (while cotton thread will always break when pulled!)
- Use wooly nylon as bobbin thread if you need to sew hems and necklines (where you need a lot of stretch!); better wound it by hand, like you do with elastic thread, to preserve its natural stretch!
Stitches and sewing machine settings:
- Stretch stitches comes in a wide variety, depending on your sewing machine model. Check your manual to see which ones your machine has. Here are the one I use:
1= Zig-zag (better if kept narrow); 2= 3 step zig-zag; 10= overlock stitch;
- Always test on scraps how much elastic are your stitches, stretching the knit on its stretchiest direction, and see if the seam has the same stretch of your fabric. Better lose some time before you even start sewing on your garment, playing with tensions and length/width than wearing it once and hear that popping seams break 😉
- If you want to keep track of your settings, practice with scraps and stitches width and length, marking settings directly on scraps (creating then stitch samples you can collect in a sewing diary)
- Usually, when sewing knits less tension is better!
- Eventually, if sewing thin knits, stick a little strip of tape just over your needle throat, to reduce its width (they also sells straight stitch needle plates, with a tiny hole, just remember to change it anytime you’re sewing a zig-zag stitch or anything wider than a straight stitch, or you’ll damage your needle and your machine’s timing).
- Start 1/2″ inside the seam to avoid your machine eating your fabric under the needle plate, backstitch, restart sewing.
- Never-ever pull knits while sewing to avoid curled seams (unless you’re sewing them to an elastic or your pattern instructions ask you doing that): it’s ok keeping it slightly stretched, but not too much: practice will help you mastering the exact amount of strength to apply!
- If using a serger, you can really have the most from sewing knits! I use a 4-threads stitch for most of your sewing, it’s the best in my opinion!
- You can use a 3-thread stitch (with the loopers and one only needle) when only finishing seam allowances on knits, but I find it too weak for construction seams. There’s a 3-threads option using two needles and only the lower looper thread with tension = 0 in my manual, it’s called “super stretch stitch“… have you ever tried it? Other serger stitches you can use with fun, are the rolled hem, the narrow hem, the picot stitch, the flatlock seam (used in sportswear and as decorative stitch). I’d like to write more about those stitches, what do you think?
- You can use with profit a wooly nylon on your loopers, when sewing swimwear or necklines or hems (where you need the seam to be really stretch!). Just remember it costs much more than regular thread and loopers are thread-eaters, so use it wisely!
So, they were my 30 Best Tips for sewing with knits.
Do you want more?
Check my Pinterest Board all for knits and, if you have some tips to share, ask me to add you as a contributor to that board, I’ll be more than pleased to have you pinning with me!
Check also the following YouTube channels on topic: